Late Evening Severe Storm
over Garden City KS with convective vortex


All images and text
© copyright Gene Moore


At sunset a strong gust front roared by us with blowing dust and marble hail. The lightning had been outrageous for the last two hours jumping well out in front of the storm and making photography as scary proposition. The storm later moved into Dodge City with winds as high as 70 MPH just northwest of town. A pretty typical event for spring in western Kansas although this particular storm did a few tricks on the way. We started following from the high plains of Colorado, but not until it hit the deeper gulf moisture did things begin to get interesting. Thanks to my chase partner Oliver, for letting me use his super wide angle lens for some of these shots.



Individual convective elements developed along the outflow boundary of the storm as it approached Garden City and encounted deeper moisture. This lowered the bases along the leading edge and intensified the storm. The dry outflow from the west appeared to act on the updrafts like and RFD (rear flank downdraft) causing some to rotate.


Occasional rising dust in a concentrated area caused us to watch the convective updrafts more closely. Note the funnel shape iimbedded within the convective outflow base. There is a small knob of the funnel extending below the base. Strong backlighting from outside the storm burned out the subtle feature of any rising dust at this time.



Rotation began just to our south and a narrow path of dust extended from the funnel to the gound. The storm was outflow dominant but not strongly at this time so the funnel survived.


The small circulation persists near the ground and at times we could see a long path to cloud base. Meanwhile the spoiler was coming, another storm was moving quickly up the line from the southwest to put an end to our little show.



The funnel is becoming ragged during this shot and the outflow is taking its toll on our little whirlie.


Our weak tornado is looking more like rotating scud as much of the laminar appearance has been lost. The ground circulation gets pushed further out from under the parent updraft as cold air flows out of the storm to the west.



We made a dash to stay ahead of the blowing dust and set up shop in the wheat fields about five miles east of town. The storm was changing at this time. The updrafts along the leading edge of the storm were now tall enough to produce their own precipitation, mainly marble hail and lightning.



View of the storm looking both southwest through west. The stacked plate appearance circuled the leading edge of the outflow boundary.


View looking up the shelf cloud to see the stacked plate appearance and setting sun to the west.



Wide angle shot looking west at the approaching gust front. It's now a classic stacked shelf cloud in the setting sun. These type storms generally produce brief high winds and marble hail, that's just what this one did. Fortunately for us the lightning changed from leaping bolts to intracloud so we got out and set up the tripods for some shots before the blowing dust arrived.



Lightning flashes within the boiling clouds overhead. At this time we made a dash south along the dirt road we were on. It wasn't a named road, just a service road for the fields on either side of us, so having it turn mud would not have been fun even through I have four wheel drive. Hail wacked us for about 5 minutes before finding the route east to Dodge City.


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